What to Why features the story of a leader named Mario who took a sales team from several years of virtually no growth to 48% annual growth, followed by consistent year-over-year growth of at least 25%.
Mario attributes the dramatic improvement of his team’s results to his use of a new category of data called WHY data—objective data on the often hidden core attributes that underlie performance at work. By using WHY data, Mario was able to leverage the most valuable asset on his sales team—the handful of reps who were outshining the rest. WHY data allowed him to quickly identify and hire more top performers as well as raise the overall performance of his team.
On this page, you’ll discover the specific process Mario followed to obtain and leverage the WHY data of his team. Although the process can vary depending on the unique circumstances for a particular team, the process outlined below will give you a good understanding of what is usually involved.
In 2011, Mario, a successful director of sales at a tech company, took over the VP Sales position at a key division of a large software company. Sales for the division had been flat for a few years running. The team at the time was comprised of 25 people, five of whom were responsible for 65% of the revenue, with the remaining reps delivering inconsistent or underwhelming results. Mario’s mandate was to achieve 25% annual growth and his plan to reach that goal involved strategies that had worked for Mario in the past, such as:
After a year, despite his best efforts, sales had improved only 5%. Mario realized his plan was the slow road to success. It was going to take too long to weed out the good hires from the bad ones, and to see any significant ROI on training and systems improvement.
Mario began to see that these problems stemmed from a lack of the right information. Relying on the traditional data types—information on skills, experience, performance activity and results (WHAT data)—had led to less than optimal decisions about who to hire and who to invest in on his team.
To solve this problem, Mario decided to incorporate a new category of information called WHY data, which would give him critical insights into why his top people outperformed everyone else, and why others were struggling. WHY data would allow him to leverage the most valuable asset on his team—his five top performers—to significantly reduce the amount of time it would otherwise take to turnaround his team.
Mario took three vital steps to obtain and apply WHY data: Talent Audit, Talent Acquisition, and Optimize the Team.
Mario’s first step was to conduct a Talent Audit. A Talent Audit is a profile of your team based on the WHY data of all your team members. It provides a comprehensive overview of your team’s unique strengths and challenges, as well as in-depth profiles of each team member, revealing insights on how to bring out their best. It is part diagnosis and part prescription, and its purpose is to give you the insights you need to make better decisions around key areas such as career path planning, leadership development, and internal mobility.
A Talent Audit also provides one or more top-performer Custom Profiles, showing you exactly what to look for in new hires or internal transfers.
Every team member completes the online Profile Builder
The first step of the Talent Audit involved creating profiles of everyone on Mario’s team. To do that, Mario sent out an email to every team member inviting them to complete the Profile Builder, a 10 to 15-minute online questionnaire.
The Profile Builder produces a profile for each individual that is as unique as a fingerprint, revealing a highly detailed picture of how that individual scores against all the essential core attributes that are proven to be critical to job performance.
Below is the visual representation of a sample individual profile. Twenty core attributes are shown as “slices” of the circle, and the individual’s scores for each attribute are the green bars. The normal range for most attributes is between 4 and 7. The sample profile below reveals very high scores for innovativeness and openness to change and very low scores for organization and preference for structure.
A couple of weeks after every member of Mario’s team completed the Profile Builder, Mario received the Talent Audit on his team—a diagnosis of the strengths and weaknesses of his team based on the WHY insights gathered on every team member. It also included a prescription for dramatically increasing his team’s performance.
Some of the key insights for Mario from his Talent Audit were:
All of Mario’s top performers possessed specific attributes that were lacking in most of the other people on the team. Furthermore, the top performers for Mario’s two main types of sales roles—new business and account management—had profiles with striking differences.
Attributes that Mario believed to be critical for sales success on his team—things he looked for in new hires—were actually not vital, and in fact, were likely leading to low performance. Some of these insights were counterintuitive. For example, an inclination to problem solving was more prevalent in Mario’s low performers than in his high performers. As well, many of the candidates that Mario brought in—people with impressive past performance—didn’t possess the attributes that were specifically vital for high performance on Mario’s team.
Several people who were underperforming in their current role had profiles that revealed they would likely be high performers in one of the other roles on Mario’s team.
Many of the people Mario was training and coaching had profiles that revealed a high likelihood that they wouldn’t respond positively to training in that role.
Following the Talent Audit, Mario immediately started to bring on more people who were built like his top performers.
On top of the Custom Profiles for the New Business and Account Management roles, which were part of Mario’s Talent Audit, Custom Profiles were created for all the other key roles on Mario’s team, including Sales Manager, Sales Specialist and Senior Sales Rep. The Custom Profiles, which were built from the top performers in each role, provided a benchmark for the attributes critical for success in that role on Mario’s team.
Below is a sample of the Custom Profile for Mario’s New Business Rep. The black line represents the profile of a top performer in this role. In other words, somebody who is likely to succeed as a New Business rep would have scores that match—or exceed—the outline of this profile.
Everyone applying for a role on Mario’s team was asked to spend 10-15 minutes answering a number of questions to complete the Profile Builder. This allowed Mario to capture their WHY data, not just the WHAT data available on their resumes.
By comparing the profiles of his applicants against his Custom Profiles, Mario was able to instantly identify which candidates had profiles that matched his top performers.
Below are two separate applicants compared against the Custom Profile for Mario’s New Business Rep. Both applicants had similar skills and experience and both were high performers in previous sales roles. The comparison, however, instantly reveals that the applicant on the left is a strong candidate, someone whose scores for each attribute exceed the benchmarks established by Mario’s top performer. By comparison, the applicant on the right has scores that fall below the benchmarks for some critical attributes, indicating a low likelihood of becoming a high-performing rep on Mario’s team.
Following the Talent Audit, Mario moved ahead with a number of initiatives to optimize the team based on the recommendations from the Talent Audit, such as:
Because some individuals had profiles that revealed they were better suited for different roles, Mario moved them into roles where they were a fit. By doing this, Mario discovered several top performers who had been struggling in the wrong roles. In fact, the individual who became Mario’s highest performing Account Manager was somebody who had consistently underperformed as a New Business Rep.
By looking at the WHY insights of his team, Mario was able to identify several high-potentials—people who had profiles that matched his top performers, but who weren’t yet performing at a high level. For these people, Mario ran them through customized training and coaching programs designed to play to their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. The performance of several of these people increased dramatically.
The WHY insights revealed that a couple of top reps that Mario had identified as potentials for management roles were not built to excel in these positions. Instead of grooming them for management he designed a senior sales role and compensation package to motivate these individuals to continue delivering impressive sales results. Mario was also able to identify a junior rep on his team who possessed all the attributes of a top manager. Mario immediately moved her into the leadership track. She proved to be an excellent manager, who was able to drive strong sales results from her unit.
The Talent Audit showed Mario that some of the people who had consistently underperformed weren’t built for their roles. These people also weren’t happy or engaged in their work. Mario worked with each of them to either find an appropriate role elsewhere in the company, or outside the organization.
By acquiring more people who were built like his existing top performers and by using the WHY data on all his team members to optimize their performance, Mario was able to increase total annual sales by 48%.
Mario has continued to use WHY data to find more top performers and optimize the team, and to date his team has consistently delivered at least 25% annual sales growth.
If you would like to learn more about how you could use WHY data to increase the performance of your team, please fill out the “Tell Me More” form and someone from ClearFit will reach out to you to schedule a 10-15 minute call.